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Home > Auctions > 30th November 2021 > Byzantine Marble Reliquary with Pillars

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LOT 0111

GBP (£) 8,000 - 10,000
EUR (€) 9,410 - 11,760
USD ($) 10,660 - 13,320

Sold for (Inc. bp): £9,525

Byzantine Marble Reliquary with Pillars

4th-10th century AD

A drum-shaped marble chest in the form of a tholos surrounded by eight columns with simple capitals, arcades between the pillars with elegant openwork foliate tracery; each tiered capital with a vertical socket for the attachment of a lid; the interior showing tooling. 22.1 kg, 37.5cm (14 3/4"). Fine condition.

Property of a London gentleman; before that in the private collection of a Kensington collector; acquired in Austria in 1993; previously in the Trimbacher collection; formerly acquired in Germany in 1980; accompanied by an academic report by Prof. Neritan Ceka and a scholarly note no.TL05394 by Dr Ronald Bonewitz; this lot has been checked against the Interpol Database of stolen works of art and is accompanied by AIAD certificate number no.10949-181176.

See Boehm, B.D., 'Relics and Reliquaries in Medieval Christianity' in Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History, New York, 2000; Abou-El-Haj, B., The Medieval Cult of Saints: Foramations and Transformations, Cambridge, 1994; Bagnoli, M. et al. eds., Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics, and Devotion in Medieval Europe, Cleveland, 2010; Weitzmann, K. ed., Age of Spirituality: Late Antique and Early Christian Art, Third to Seventh Century, New York, 1979, no.569-575.

Reliquaries were containers for storing and displaying relics, such as bones, pieces of clothing or an object associated with a saint or other religious figure, in a church from the early Christianity onwards. Starting from the simple forms of chests in late Antiquity, they developed to various types depending on the relics they contained. During the Reformation, a large number of reliquaries were destroyed by Calvinists and as a result the number of original, especially early specimens, is limited. Interestingly, our reliquary has a hole in its bottom, which can be related to the practice of pouring oil into a container of relics of a saint or saints, which was then collected into pilgrim flasks.